From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Black Power is a political slogan and a name

for various associated ideologies aimed at achieving

self-determination for people of African descent.[1]

It is used by African Americans in the United States

[2] It was prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s,

emphasizing racial pride and the creation of black

political and cultural institutions to nurture and promote

black collective interests[3] and advance black values.

"Black Power" expresses a range of political goals, from

defense against racial oppression, to the establishment of

social institutions and a self-sufficient economy.

Origin as a political slogan[edit]

The earliest known usage of the term is found in a 1954 book

by Richard Wright entitled Black Power.[4] New York politician

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. used the term on May 29, 1966 during

an address at Howard University: "To demand these God-given

rights is to seek black power."[4]

The first popular use of the term "Black Power" as a political

and racial slogan was by Stokely Carmichael

(later known as Kwame Ture) and Willie Ricks (later known as

Mukasa Dada), both organizers and spokespersons for the

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). On June 16, 1966,

in a speech in Greenwood, Mississippi, after the shooting of James

Meredith during the March Against Fear, Stokely Carmichael said:[5][6]

This is the twenty-seventh time I have been arrested and I ain't going

to jail no more! The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin'

us is to take over. What we gonna start sayin' now is Black Power!

Stokely Carmichael saw the concept of "Black Power" as a means of

solidarity between individuals within the movement. It was a replacement

of the "Freedom Now!" slogan of Carmichael's contemporary, the non-violent

leader Martin Luther King. With his use of the term, Carmichael felt this

movement was not just a movement for racial desegregation, but rather a

movement to help end how American racism had weakened blacks. He said,

"'Black Power' means black people coming together to form a political

force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives

to speak their needs."[7]

A range of ideologies[edit]

Black Power adherents believed in Black autonomy, with a variety of tendencies

such as black nationalism, black self-determination, and black separatism.

Such positions caused friction with leaders of the mainstream

Civil Rights Movement, and thus the two movements have sometimes been viewed

as inherently antagonistic. Civil Rights leaders often proposed passive,

non-violent tactics while the Black Power movement felt that, in the words

of Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, "a 'non-violent' approach to

civil rights is an approach black cannot afford and a luxury white people

do not deserve." [8] "However, many groups and individuals - including

Rosa Parks,[9] Robert F. Williams, Maya Angelou, Gloria Richardson, and

Fay Bellamy Powell - participated in both civil rights and black power

activism. A growing number of scholars conceive of the civil rights and

black power movements as one interconnected Black Freedom Movement.


Numerous Black Power advocates were in favor of black self

determination due to the belief that black people must lead

and run their own organizations. Stokely Carmichael is such

an advocate and states that, "only black people can convey

the revolutionary idea--and it is a revolutionary idea--that

black people are able to do things themselves." [13] However,

this is not to say that Black Power advocates promoted racial

segregation or were racist. Stokely Carmichael and Charles V.

Hamilton write that "there is definite, much-needed role whites

can play."[14] They felt that white could serve the movement by

educating other white people.

Not all Black Power advocates were in favor of black separatism.

While Stokely Carmichael and SNCC were in favor of separatism for

a time in the late 1960s, organizations such as the

Black Panther Party for Self-Defense were not. Though the Panthers

considered themselves to be at war with the prevailing white

supremacist power structure, they were not at war with all whites,

but rather those (mostly white) individuals empowered by the

injustices of the structure and responsible for its reproduction.

Bobby Seale, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Black Panther Party for

Self-Defense, was outspoken about this issue. His stand was that the

oppression of black people was more of a result of economic

exploitation than anything innately racist. In his book Seize the Time,

he states that "In our view it is a class struggle between the massive

proletarian working class and the small, minority ruling class. Working-

class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive

ruling class. So let me emphasize again—we believe our fight is a class

struggle and not a race struggle."[15]

Internationalist offshoots of black power include African Internationalism,

pan-Africanism, black nationalism, and black supremacy.


See also: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

The term "Black Power" was used in a different sense in the 1850s by black

leader Frederick Douglass as an alternative name for the Slave Power—that

is the disproportionate political power at the national level held by slave

owners in the South.[16] Douglass predicted: "The days of Black Power are

numbered. Its course, indeed is onward. But with the swiftness of an arrow,

it rushes to the tomb. While crushing its millions, it is also crushing itself.

The sword of Retribution, suspended by a single hair, hangs over it. That

sword must fall. Liberty must triumph."[16]

In apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela's African National Congress used

the call-and-response chant "Amandla! (Power!)", "Ngawethu! (The power is ours!)"

from the late 1950s onward.[17]

The modern American concept emerged from the Civil Rights Movement in the early

1960s. Beginning in 1959, Robert F. Willams, president of the Monroe,

North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, openly questioned the ideology of

nonviolence and its domination of the movement's strategy. Williams was supported

by prominent leaders such as Ella Baker and James Forman, and opposed by others,

such as Roy Wilkins (the national NAACP chairman) and Martin Luther King.[18]

In 1961, Maya Angelou, Leroi Jones, and Mae Mallory led a riotous (and widely covered)

demonstration at the United Nations to protest the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

[19][20] Malcolm X, national representative of the Nation of Islam, also launched an

extended critique of nonviolence and integrationism at this time. After seeing the

increasing militancy of blacks in the wake of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing,

and wearying of the domination of Elijah Muhammed over the Nation of Islam,

Malcolm left that organization and engaged with the mainstream of the

Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm was now open to voluntary integration as a

long-term goal, but still supported armed self-defense, self-reliance, and

black nationalism; he became a simultaneous spokesman for the militant wing of the

Civil Rights Movement and the non-separatist wing of the Black Power movement.

An early manifestation of Black Power in popular culture was the performances given

by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall in March 1964, and the album In Concert which

resulted from them. Simone mocked liberal nonviolence ("Go Limp"), and took a

vengeful position toward white racists ("Mississippi Goddamn" and her adaptation of

"Pirate Jenny"). Historian Ruth Feldstein writes that, "Contrary to the neat

historical trajectories which suggest that black power came late in the decade

and only after the 'successes' of earlier efforts, Simone's album makes clear that

black power perspectives were already taking shape and circulating the

early 1960s." [21]

By 1966, most of SNCC's field staff, among them Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture),

were becoming critical of the nonviolent approach to confronting racism and inequality

—articulated and promoted by Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, and other

moderates—and rejected desegregation as a primary objective. King was critical of

the black power movement, stating in an August 1967 speech to the SCLC: "Let us be

dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout 'White Power!' — when nobody will

shout 'Black Power!' — but everybody will talk about God's power and human power."[22]

In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, King stated:

In the final analysis the weakness of Black Power is its failure to see that the

black man needs the white man and the white man needs the black man. However much we

may try to romanticize the slogan, there is no separate black path to power and

fulfillment that does not intersect white paths, and there is no separate white path

to power and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share that power with

black aspirations for freedom and human dignity. We are bound together in a single garment

of destiny. The language, the cultural patterns, the music, the material prosperity, and

even the food of America are an amalgam of black and white.[23]

SNCC's base of support was generally younger and more working-class than that of the

other "Big Five"[24] civil rights organizations and became increasingly more militant

and outspoken over time. As a result, as the Civil Rights Movement progressed,

increasingly radical, more militant voices came to the fore to aggressively challenge

white hegemony. Increasing numbers of black youth, particularly, rejected their elders'

moderate path of cooperation, racial integration and assimilation. They rejected the

notion of appealing to the public's conscience and religious creeds and took the tack

articulated by another black activist more than a century before, abolitionist

Frederick Douglass, who wrote:

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want

crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning.

They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. ...

Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.[25]

Most early 1960s civil rights leaders did not believe in physically violent

retaliation. However, much of the African-American rank-and-file, and those leaders

with strong working-class ties, tended to compliment nonviolent action with armed

self-defense. For instance, prominent nonviolent activist Fred Shuttlesworth of the

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (and a leader of the 1963 Birmingham campaign),

had worked closely with an armed defense group that was led by Colonel Stone Johnson.

As Alabama historian Frye Gaillard writes,

...these were the kind of men Fred Shuttlesworth admired, a mirror of the toughness

he aspired to himself…They went armed [during the Freedom Rides], for it was one of

the realities of the civil rights movement that however nonviolent it may have been

at its heart, there was always a current of 'any means necessary,' as the black power

advocates would say later on.[26]

During the March Against Fear, there was a division between those aligned with

Martin Luther King, Jr. and those aligned with Carmichael, marked by their

respective slogans, "Freedom Now" and "Black Power."[27]

While King never endorsed the slogan, his rhetoric sometimes came close to it.

In his 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here?, King wrote that "power is not the

white man's birthright; it will not be legislated for us and delivered in neat

government packages."[28]


Although the concept remained imprecise and contested and the people who used

the slogan ranged from business people who used it to push black capitalism to

revolutionaries who sought an end to capitalism, the idea of Black Power exerted

a significant influence. It helped organize scores of community self-help groups

and institutions that did not depend on Whites. It was used to force black studies

programs at colleges, to mobilize black voters to elect black candidates, and to

encourage greater racial pride and self-esteem.[citation needed]

One of the most spectacular and unexpected demonstrations for Black Power occurred

at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. At the conclusion of the 200m race, at

the medal ceremony, United States gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist

John Carlos wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges and showed the raised fist

(see 1968 Olympics Black Power salute) as the anthem played. Accompanying them was

silver medalist Peter Norman, a white Australian sprinter, who also wore an OPHR

badge to show his support for the two African Americans.

Impact on Black politics[edit]

Though the Black Power movement did not immediately remedy the political problems

faced by African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, the movement did contribute to

the development of black politics both directly and indirectly. As a contemporary

of and successor to the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement created,

what sociologist Herbert H. Haines refers to as a "positive radical flank effect"

on political affairs of the 1960s. Though the nature of the relationship between

the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement is contested, Haines' study

of the relationship between black radicals and the mainstream civil rights movement

indicates that Black Power generated a "crisis in American institutions which made

the legislative agenda of 'polite, realistic, and businesslike' mainstream

organizations" more appealing to politicians. In this way, it can be argued that

the more strident and oppositional messages of the Black Power movement indirectly

enhanced the bargaining position of more moderate activists.[29] Black Power

activists approached politics with vitality, variety, wit, and creativity that

shaped the way future generations approached dealing with America's societal

problems (McCartney 188). These activists capitalized on the nation's recent

awareness of the political nature of oppression, a primary focus of the

Civil Rights Movement, developing numerous political action caucuses and

grass roots community associations to remedy the situation [29]

The National Black Political Convention, held March 10–12, 1972, was a

significant milestone in black politics of the Black Power era. Held in

Gary, Indiana, a majorly black city, the convention included a diverse

group of black activists, although it completely excluded whites. The

convention was criticized for its racial exclusivity by Roy Wilkins of the

NAACP, a group that supported integration. The delegates created a

National Black Political Agenda with stated goals including the election

of a proportionate number of black representatives to Congress, community

control of schools, national health insurance, etc. Though the convention

did not result in any direct policy, the convention advanced goals of the

Black Power movement and left participants buoyed by a spirit of possibility

and themes of unity and self-determination. A concluding note to the convention,

addressing its supposed idealism, read: "At every critical moment of our

struggle in America we have had to press relentlessly against the limits of the

'realistic' to create new realities for the life of our people. This is our

challenge at Gary and beyond, for a new Black politics demands new vision,

new hope and new definitions of the possible. Our time has come. These things

are necessary. All things are possible."[30] Though such political activism

may not have resulted in direct policy, they provided political models for

later movements, advanced a pro-black political agenda, and brought sensitive

issues to the forefront of American politics. In its confrontational and often

oppositional nature, the Black Power movement started a debate within the black

community and America as a nation over issues of racial progress, citizenship,

and democracy, namely "the nature of American society and the place of the

African American in it."[31] The continued intensity of debate over these same

social and political issues is a tribute to the impact of the Black Power

movement in arousing the political awareness and passions of citizens.[31]

Impact on other movements[edit]

Though the aims of the Black Power movement were racially specific, much of

the movement's impact has been its influence on the development and strategies

of later political and social movements. By igniting and sustaining debate on

the nature of American society, the Black Power movement created what other

multiracial and minority groups interpreted to be a viable template for the

overall restructuring of society.[32] By opening up discussion on issues of

democracy and equality, the Black Power movement paved the way for a diverse

plurality of social justice movements, including black feminism, environmental

movements, affirmative action, and gay and lesbian rights. Central to these

movements were the issues of identity politics and structural inequality,

features emerging from the Black Power movement.[33] Because the

Black Power movement emphasized and explored a black identity, movement

activists were forced to confront issues of gender and class as well.

Many activists in the Black Power movement became active in related movements.

This is seen in the case of the "second wave" of women's right activism, a

movement supported and orchestrated to a certain degree by women working from

within the coalition ranks of the Black Power movement.[34] The boundaries

between social movements became increasingly unclear at the end of the 1960s

and into the 1970s; where the Black Power movement ends and where these other

social movements begin is often unclear. "It is pertinent to note that as the

movement expanded the variables of gender, class, and only compounded issues

of strategy and methodology in black protest thought."[35]

Impact on African-American identity[edit]

Protester raises his hand in black power salute, Ferguson, Missouri, 15

August 2014 Due to the negative and militant reputation of such auxiliaries

as that of the Black Panther Party, many people felt that this movement of

"insurrection" would soon serve to cause discord and disharmony through the

entire U.S. Even Stokely Carmichael stated, "When you talk of Black Power,

you talk of building a movement that will smash everything Western civilization

has created."[36] Though Black Power at the most basic level refers to a political

movement, the psychological and cultural messages of the Black Power movement,

though less tangible, have had perhaps a longer-lasting impact on American society

than concrete political changes. Indeed, "fixation on the 'political' hinders

appreciation of the movement's cultural manifestations and unnecessarily obscures

black culture's role in promoting the psychological well being of the

Afro-American people,"[37] states William L. Van Deburg, author of A New Day

in Babylon, "movement leaders never were as successful in winning power for the

people as they were in convincing people that they had sufficient power within

themselves to escape 'the prison of self-deprecation'" [38] Primarily, the

liberation and empowerment experienced by African Americans occurred in the

psychological realm. The movement uplifted the black community as a whole by

cultivating feelings of racial solidarity and positive self-identity, often in

opposition to the world of white Americans, a world that had physically and

psychologically oppressed Blacks for generations. Stokely Carmichael stated

that "the goal of black self-determination and black self-identity--

Black Power--is recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people."

[13] Through the movement, blacks came to understand themselves and their

culture by exploring and debating the question, "who are we?" in order to

establish a unified and viable identity.[39] And "if black people are to

know themselves as a vibrant, valiant people, they must know their roots."


Throughout the Civil Rights Movement and black history, there has been

tension between those wishing to minimize and maximize racial difference.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr. often attempted to deemphasize

race in their quest for equality, while those advocating for separatism

and colonization emphasized an extreme and irreconcilable difference

between races. The Black Power movement largely achieved an equilibrium of

"balanced and humane ethnocentrism."[39] The impact of the Black Power

movement in generating discussion about ethnic identity and black

consciousness supported the appearance and expansion of academic fields

of American studies, Black Studies, and African studies,[34] and the

founding of several museums devoted to African-American history and culture

in this period.[40] In these ways the Black Power movement led to greater

respect for and attention accorded to African Americans' history and culture.

Impact in Britain[edit]

Black Power got a foothold in Britain when Carmichael came to London in

July 1967 to attend the Dialectics of Liberation Congress. As well as his

address at the Congress, he also made a speech at Speakers' Corner. At

that time there was no Black Power organization in Britain, although there

was Michael X's Racial Adjustment Action Society.[41] However, this was more

influenced by the visit of Malcolm X in that year. Michael X also adopted

Islam at this stage, whereas Black Power was not organized around any

religious institution. The Black Power Manifesto was launched on

10 November 1967, published by the Universal Coloured People's Association.

Obi Egbuna, the spokesperson for the group, claimed they had recruited

778 members in London during the previous seven weeks.[42] In 1968 Egbuna

published Black Power or Death. He was also active with CLR James,

Calvin Hernton and others in the Antiuniversity of London,[43] set up

following the Dialectics of Liberation Congress.

Afro-British who identified themselves as the British Black Power Movement

(BBMP) formed in the 1960s. They worked with the U.S. Black Panther Party

in 1967–68, and 1968–72.[44] The On March 2, 1970, roughly one hundred

people protested outside the U.S. embassy in Grosvenor Square, London,

in support of the U.S. Black Panther founder Bobby Seale, who was on trial

for murder in New Haven, Connecticut.[44] They chanted "Free Bobby!" and

carried posters proclaiming "Free, Free bobby Seale" and "You can kill a

revolutionary but not a revolution." [44] London police arrested sixteen

of the protestors that day, three women and thirteen men with threatening

and assaulting police officers, distributing a flier entitled

"the Definition of Black Power", intending to incite a breach of the peace,

and willful damage to a police raincoat. The raincoat charge was dropped

by the judge, but the judge found five of the accused guilty of the

remaining charges.[44]

Impact in Jamaica[edit]

A Black Power movement arose in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Though Jamaica

had gained independence from the British Empire in 1962, and

Prime Minister Hugh Shearer was black, many cabinet ministers

(such as Edward Seaga) and business elites were white. Large segments of

the black majority population were unemployed or did not earn a living wage.

The Jamaica Labour Party government of Hugh Shearer banned Black Power

literature such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of

Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael.

Guyanese academic Walter Rodney was appointed as a lecturer at the

University of the West Indies in January 1968, and became one of the

main exponents of Black Power in Jamaica. When the Shearer government

banned Rodney from re-entering the country, the Rodney Riots broke out.

As a result of the Rodney affair, radical groups and publications such

as Abeng began to emerge, and the opposition People's National Party

gained support. In the 1972 election, the Jamaica Labour Party was

defeated by the People's National Party, and Michael Manley, who had

expressed support for Black Power, became Prime Minister.[45]

Black is beautiful[edit]

Main article: Black is beautiful

The cultivation of pride in the African-American race was often

summarized in the phrase "Black is Beautiful." The phrase is rooted

in its historical context, yet the relationship to it has changed

in contemporary times. "I don't think it's 'Black is beautiful'

anymore. It's 'I am beautiful and I'm black.' It's not the symbolic

thing, the afro, power sign… That phase is over and it succeeded.

My children feel better about themselves and they know that they're

black," stated a respondent in Bob Blauner's longitudinal oral history

of U.S. race relations in 1986.[46] The outward manifestations of an

appreciation and celebration of blackness abound: black dolls,

natural hair, black Santas, models and celebrities that were once rare

and symbolic have become commonplace.

The "Black is beautiful" cultural movement aimed to dispel the notion

that black people's natural features such as skin color, facial features

and hair are inherently ugly.[47] John Sweat Rock was the first to coin

the phrase "Black is Beautiful", in the slavery era. The movement asked

that men and women stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten

or bleach their skin.[48] The prevailing idea in American culture was that

black features are less attractive or desirable than white features.

The movement is largely responsible for the popularity of the Afro.

Impact on arts and culture[edit]

Three Proud People mural in Newtown, depicting the

1968 Olympics Black Power salute.

The Black Power movement produced artistic and cultural products that

both embodied and generated pride in "blackness" and further defined

an African-American identity that remains contemporary. Black Power is

often seen as a cultural revolution as much as a political revolution,

with the goal of celebrating and emphasizing the distinctive group

culture of African Americans to an American society that had previously

been dominated by white artistic and cultural expressions. Black power

utilized all available forms of folk, literary, and dramatic expression

based in a common ancestral past to promote a message of self-

actualization and cultural self-definition.[49] The emphasis on a

distinctive black culture during the Black Power movement publicized

and legitimized a culture gap between Blacks and Whites that had

previously been ignored and denigrated. More generally, in recognizing

the legitimacy of another culture and challenging the idea of white

cultural superiority, the Black Power movement paved the way for the

celebration of multiculturalism in America today.[citation needed]

The cultural concept of "soul" was fundamental to the image of

African-American culture embodied by the Black Power movement.

Soul, a type of "in-group cultural cachet," was closely tied to

black America's need for individual and group self-identification.[50]

A central expression of the "soulfulness" of the Black Power

generation was a cultivation of aloofness and detachment, the creation

of an "aura or emotional invulnerability," a persona that challenged

their position of relative powerlessness in greater society.

The nonverbal expressions of this attitude, including everything from

posture to handshakes, were developed as a counterpoint to the rigid,

"up-tight" mannerisms of white people. Though the iconic symbol of

black power, the arms raised with biceps flexed and clenched fists,

is temporally specific, variants of the multitude of handshakes, or

"giving and getting skin," in the 1960s and 1970s as a mark of communal

solidarity continue to exist as a part of black culture.[51] Clothing

style also became an expression of Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s.

Though many of the popular trends of the movement remained confined to

the decade, the movement redefined standards of beauty that were

historically influenced by Whites and instead celebrated a natural

"blackness." As Stokely Carmichael said in 1966, "We have to stop

being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, thick lip and nappy hair

is us and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it

or not."[52] "Natural" hair styles, such as the Afro, became a socially

acceptable tribute to group unity and a highly visible celebration of

black heritage. Though the same social messages may no longer

consciously influence individual hair or clothing styles in today's

society, the Black Power movement was influential in diversifying

standards of beauty and aesthetic choices. The Black Power movement

raised the idea of a black aesthetic that revealed the worth and

beauty of all black people.[53]

In developing a powerful identity from the most elemental aspects of

African-American folk life, the Black Power movement generated

attention to the concept of "soul food," a fresh, authentic, and

natural style of cooking that originated in Africa. The flavor and

solid nourishment of the food was credited with sustaining African

Americans through centuries of oppression in America and became an

important aid in nurturing contemporary racial pride.[54]

Black Power advocates used the concept of "soul food" to further

distinguish between white and black culture; though the basic elements

of soul food were not specific to African-American food, Blacks

believed in the distinctive quality, if not superiority, of foods

prepared by Blacks. No longer racially specific, traditional

"soul foods" such as yams, collard greens, and deep-fried chicken

continue to hold a place in contemporary culinary life.[citation needed]

Black Arts Movement[edit]

Main article: Black Arts Movement

The Black Arts Movement or BAM, founded in Harlem by writer and activist

Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoy Jones), can be seen as the artistic branch

of the Black Power movement.[55] This movement inspired black people to

establish ownership of publishing houses, magazines, journals and art

institutions. Other well-known writers who were involved with this movement

included Nikki Giovanni; Don L. Lee, later known as Haki Madhubuti;

Sonia Sanchez; Maya Angelou; Dudley Randall; Sterling Plumpp; Larry Neal;

Ted Joans; Ahmos Zu-Bolton; and Etheridge Knight. Several black-owned

publishing houses and publications sprang from the BAM, including Madhubuti's

Third World Press, Broadside Press, Zu-Bolton's Energy Black South Press,

and the periodicals Callaloo and Yardbird Reader. Although not strictly

involved with the Movement, other notable African-American writers such

as novelists Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison and poet Gwendolyn Brooks can

be considered to share some of its artistic and thematic concerns.

BAM sought "to link, in a highly conscious manner, art and politics in order

to assist in the liberation of black people", and produced an increase in the

quantity and visibility of African-American artistic production.[56] Though

many elements of the Black Arts movement are separate from the Black Power

movement, many goals, themes, and activists overlapped. Literature, drama,

and music of Blacks "served as an oppositional and defensive mechanism through

which creative artists could confirm their identity while articulating their own

unique impressions of social reality."[57] In addition to acting as highly

visible and unifying representations of "blackness," the artistic products of

the Black Power movement also utilized themes of black empowerment and

liberation.[58] For instance, black recording artists not only transmitted

messages of racial unity through their music, they also became significant

role models for a younger generation of African Americans.[59] Updated protest

songs not only bemoaned oppression and societal wrongs, but utilized adversity

as a reference point and tool to lead others to activism. Some Black Power era

artists conducted brief mini-courses in the techniques of empowerment.

In the tradition of cultural nationalists, these artists taught that in order

to alter social conditions, Blacks first had to change the way they viewed

themselves; they had to break free of white norms and strive to be more natural,

a common theme of African-American art and music.[60] Musicians such as the

Temptations sang lyrics such as "I have one single desire, just like you /

So move over, son, 'cause I'm comin' through" in their song

"Message From a Black Man," they expressed the revolutionary sentiments of

the Black Power movement.[61]

Ishmael Reed, who is considered neither a movement apologist nor advocate,

said: "I wasn't invited to participate because I was considered an

integrationist" but he went on to explain the positive aspects of the

Black Arts Movement and the Black Power movement:

I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to

write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without

Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began

writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the

example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing,

get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and

your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and

Black Arts struck a blow for that.[62]

By breaking into a field typically reserved for white Americans, artists

of the Black Power era expanded opportunities for current African Americans.

"Today's writers and performers," writes William L. Van Deburg, "recognize

that they owe a great deal to Black Power's explosion of cultural orthodoxy."[63]


Bayard Rustin, an elder statesman of the Civil Rights Movement, was a harsh critic

of Black Power in its earliest days. Writing in 1966, shortly after the

March Against Fear, Rustin said that Black Power "not only lacks any real

value for the civil rights movement, but [...] its propagation is positively

harmful. It diverts the movement from a meaningful debate over strategy and tactics,

it isolates the Negro community, and it encourages the growth of anti-Negro forces.

" He particularly criticized the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC for

their turn toward Black Power, arguing that these two organizations once

"awakened the country, but now they emerge isolated and demoralized, shouting a

slogan that may afford a momentary satisfaction but that is calculated to destroy

them and their movement."[64]